Open access and open data are becoming more prominent on the global research agenda. Funders are increasingly requiring grantees to deposit their raw research data in appropriate public archives or stores in order to facilitate the validation of results and further work by other researchers. According to the JISC and RLUK funded Sherpa Juliet site, globally there are now 34 funders who require data archiving and 16 who encourage it.
While the rise of open access has fundamentally changed the academic publishing landscape, the policies around data are reigniting the conversation around what universities can and should be doing to protect the assets generated at their institution. The main difference between an open access and open data policy is that there is not already a precedent or status quo of how academia deals with the dissemination of research that is not in the form of a traditional ‘paper’ publication.
As governments and funders of research see the benefit of open content, the creation of recommendations, mandates and enforcement of mandates are coming thick and fast. There appears to be a 6-step route which many funding bodies globally have already passed the halfway mark of:
The first of these mandates that directly affects universities comes from the UK. The EPSRC’s long awaited open research data policy comes into effect on May 1st 2015. This is not something that UK institutions and researchers can avoid - “EPSRC will investigate non-compliance; if it appears that proper sharing of research data is being obstructed EPSRC reserves the right to impose appropriate sanctions.” Unfortunately for said institutions, “The EPSRC does not run a data centre. Research organisations are expected to securely preserve data.” Herein lies the whole-scale change at an institutional level. The development of existing systems to better accommodate other research outputs as well as papers is progressing well within the open source community. However, the EPSRC acknowledges that cost savings and efficiencies may be found elsewhere - “It may be that in the interests of efficiency a research organisation wishes to appoint a third party to provide appropriate services, or two or more research organisations may wish to collaborate and develop a shared service: such approaches would be entirely acceptable within this framework.”
However, although some people see the UK as leading the way here, the Sherpa Juliet data, combined with recent funder announcements suggests that it is North America where the velocity of new policies seems to be picking up a head of steam. Of the 27 funders listed as having data archiving mandates on the Sherpa Juliet website, 12 are from the UK, 10 from North America and 5 from Europe.
The American push goes all the way to the very top, ignited by the Whitehouse’s 2013 OSTP statement on ‘Expanding public access to the results of federally funded research.’ Other main funders have extended this train of thought to outline what is ‘expected’ of those who receive public funding in the US:
National Science Foundation (NSF)
“Investigators are expected to share with other researchers, at no more than incremental cost and within a reasonable time, the primary data, samples, physical collections and other supporting materials created or gathered in the course of work under NSF grants”
National Institute of Health (NIH)
“NIH expects the timely release and sharing of data to be no later than the acceptance for publication of the main findings from the final dataset”
National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH)
“NEH is committed to timely and rapid data distribution”
The most recent high profile cases also come from North America. In November, it was announced that ‘The Government of Canada will maximize access to federally funded scientific research to encourage greater collaboration and engagement with the scientific community, the private sector, and the public. Accordingly, the Government of Canada will establish a government-wide approach to open science to increase access to federally funded scientific publications and data’. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation followed in December with ‘the world’s strongest policy in support of open research and open data’. The NIH’s policy continues to evolve with all genomics data now needing to be shared as of January 25th 2015.
Interestingly, the 2 big Australian funders, the ARC and the NHMRC do not feature in the list. However, several Australian Universities have signed up for ‘figshare for institutions’ as a result of the country’s general approach to data. This is in no small part due to the fantastic work of the Australian National Data Service (ANDS), who have the aim to get ‘more Australian researchers reusing research data more often’. This case in point demonstrates that this area isn’t all about funder mandates, but more about ethical, reproducible and efficient research.
At figshare, we spent the whole of 2014 working with institutions to see how we can provide a service to help them with their research data management and dissemination needs. Our firstinstitutionalimplementations will be launched in the first quarter of 2015. Since day 1, we have always focussed on making use of new technologies, such as cloud hosting and new browser functionality, to aid researchers, publishers and institutions in their attempts to better manage and disseminate academic research.
Frustrated with the limitations of the current academic system, the figshare team are firm believers in the power of open access to knowledge. At the same time, we fully understand that the changing landscape of academic publishing is in a transition stage and academic career progression is largely dependent on pre-web concepts. In order to empower modern day researchers, publishers and institutions, we acknowledge that the conversation is not just about open or closed content, but control. For this reason, our systems have been developed to ensure that the academic’s and institutions have complete control of the research generated.
Importantly, the open research tipping point seems to have been passed. When speaking with funders, there is general acceptance that all research should and will be made available in the coming years. In a follow-up post, we’ll talk about what we think the end goals of these new directives are and how we are responding to the changing landscape to better serve academic institutions, publishers and of course, the researchers themselves.
As always, feedback, comments, suggestions and ideas are welcomed. Please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org or via twitter, facebook or google+. If you would like to hear more about our institutional offering, please get in touch via any of the above channels and we will be more than happy to discuss your requirements in more detail.